The trial of the "Rasputin" of South Korea has begun in Seoul. Choi Soon-sil is accused of far-reaching political corruption.
The woman at the middle of South Korea's political crisis, Choi Soon-sil, appeared in court for the first time on Monday.
The confidante of disgraced president Park Geun-hye has been called the "female Rasputin" of her country for the amount of influence she exerted over Park, who is in the midst of impeachment proceedings.
On the first day of her trial, Choi said the corruption charges against her were "fiction." Prosecutors have alleged that she colluded with the president to pressure businesses to donate to non-profits that backed Park's policies.
Park has had her powers suspended since parliament's December 9 vote to impeach her.
President denies wrongdoing
The two women have been friends since the 1970s, when Park began acting as first lady after the death of her mother. Park's father ruled the country after seizing power in a 1961 coup until he was assassinated in 1979.
Prosecutors have painted Choi as the mastermind of a plot to pressure 16 companies to donate a total of $65.6 million (62.8 million euros) to create two foundations that would then support Park's initiatives. The president, who has immunity for most crimes while in office, has said that Choi helped her with "public relations" and speech writing, but has denied all other wrongdoing.
In the same vein, representatives for the president have questioned the legitimacy of the impeachment, saying no serious crime has been committed.
Over the past few weeks, millions have taken to the streets in Seoul to demand that Park resign.
es/tj (AP, AFP, Reuters)